"Slowly, almost unnoticed," wrote Robert H. Hayes and Marco Iansiti in The Intellectual Venture Capitalist, "the unglamorous and taken-for-granted craft of operations management had emerged as the Achilles heel of many American companies. When the competitive assault came, these companies were simply unprepared to respond. Their factories and equipment were aging, their workers dispirited, and their senior managers largely out of touch with operating issues. Never did managers have a greater need for guidance in improving and reshaping the operations side of their companies—and rarely had there been so few places to turn for such practical advice.

“This was a historic moment, and the Harvard POM faculty rose to the challenge by writing a series of candid and penetrating articles and books aimed at managers. The response was extremely gratifying. Between 1980 and 1986, POM area members were awarded the prestigious McKinsey Award, for the best article published in the Harvard Business Review, five times. In one year, they captured both first and second place. The dates and titles of these articles suggest their content and the reason for their high impact:

“1980 ‘Managing Our Way to Economic Decline,’ by Robert Hayes and William Abernathy

“1981 ‘The New Industrial Competition,’ by William Abernathy, Kim Clark, and Alan Kantrow (second place: ‘Why Japanese Factories Work,’ by Robert Hayes)

“1982 ‘Managing as if Tomorrow Mattered,’ by Robert Hayes and David Garvin

“1983 ‘Quality on the Line,’ by David Garvin’

“1986 ‘The Productivity Paradox,’ by Wickham Skinner”